Substance abuse, acrimonious break-ups, huge royalty cheques, disastrous gigs, dysfunctional relationships, all rock life is here…
Having made the decision to get the story of your life into a book, you might as well go all in. Half-measures are no good to anybody when it comes to an autobiography, and it’s that commitment to honesty that persuaded Long Live Vinyl to award its 2019 Book Of The Year title to Wayne Hussey for his self-penned tome, Salad Daze. The Mission man is honest, frank and funny throughout the retelling of his version of the truth. Runner-up Mick Houghton is similarly open, and his Fried & Justified memoir of his days as a publicist reminds us of the maladjusted nature of most bands, whose careers often resemble a soap opera played out for real. A quick honourable mention must also go out to Vinyl London, an essential for any cratediggers needing a fix in the capital.
Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn
Suede’s singer follows up his excellent early-days memoir Coal Black Mornings with another revelatory dip into his life as a blouse-wearing rock star. This is the book he said he wouldn’t write, as it details the sudden rise and gradual fall of the band and his well-being.
Cruel To Be Kind: The Life & Music Of Nick Lowe
If anybody deserves to be the subject of a decent music biography then it’s overlooked national treasure, Nick Lowe. Ex-Kursaal Flyer Birch performs the honours with an intimate and insightful chronicle of the former Jesus of Cool.
Go Ahead In The Rain
Critically acclaimed poet and critic Hanif Abdurraqib’s enduring obsession with Daisy Age hip-hop quartet A Tribe Called Quest affectionately spills out all over the pages of Go Ahead In The Rain. Full of sharp insights and piercing cultural context, this is Abdurraqib’s love letter to an important band.
Part handy reference guide, part contemporary social history, Tom Greig’s Vinyl London perceptively documents the capital’s record shop scene. Credit is also due to snapper Sam Mellish, whose photos have that satisfying ability to capture the in-store ambience of individual shops.
The Lark Ascending
Richard King’s exploration into the mysterious relationship between music and nature, specifically the British landscape, journeys chronologically from the post-war poets to the acid house scene at the turn of the century. Deftly handled, it makes for a fascinating trip taking in Brian Eno, Kate Bush and Boards Of Canada along the way.
It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track
Ian Penman sharpened his journalistic teeth on the NME during its late-70s heyday. A Penman piece was always beautifully written, often experimental and guaranteed to carry an intellectual heft. Across eight long-form essays, he returns with his first book for 20 years. He remains a singular treat.
Fried & Justified
Publicist Mick Houghton recalls his dealings with his weighty roster of maverick artists. The fact so many of the bands he worked with were dysfunctional (Talking Heads, the Ramones, KLF, Teardrops) was a right royal pain for Mick at the time, but, ultimately, meant his book is rammed full of memorable tales.
This Searing Light, The Sun & Everything Else
There have been many books written about Joy Division, but this meticulously curated oral history is the definitive last word. Compiled from in-depth interviews with all the main players, Savage skilfully pieces together the band’s story from scruffy schoolboys to post-punk icons.
Celeste Bell & Zoe Howe
X-Ray Spex were one of punk’s truest pioneers, and in Poly Styrene they possessed the movement’s most talented frontwoman. The band proved to be a huge influence on the subsequent Riot Grrrl scene. Dayglo!, co-written by Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell alongside Zoe Howe, is a fittingly poignant celebration of her mother’s life and work.
The Mission man doesn’t hold back, as he lifts the lid on his life and times across the pages of his frank and hilarious autobiography. From his initiation in the Liverpool scene of the early 80s through to his booze and drug-heavy stint in Sisters Of Mercy, Hussey is never afraid to tell it like he thought it was.